Love remains a main source of regret for typical American, study finds

Mar 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- When it comes to romantic relationships, have you ever made a decision that you regretted?

You’re not alone. A new study by Neal Roese, Kellogg professor of marketing, finds that romance is the most common source of regret among Americans. Other common sources of regret include family interactions, education, career, finances and parenting.

For the study, Roese and Mike Morrison of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzed data from a telephone survey of 370 adult Americans. Subjects were asked to describe one regret in detail, including the time in which the regret happened and whether the regret was based on an action or inaction.

“We found that one’s life circumstances, such as accomplishments or shortcomings, inject considerable fuel into the fires of regret,” Roese said. “Although regret is painful, it is an essential component of the human experience.”

Key findings from the study include:

• About 44 percent of women reported romance regrets versus 19 percent of men. Women also had more family regrets than men. About 34 percent of men reported having work-oriented regrets versus 27 percent of women reporting similar regrets. Men also had more education regrets than women.
• Individuals who were not currently in a relationship were most likely to have romance regrets.
• People were evenly divided on regrets of situations that they acted on versus those that they did not act on. People who regretted events that they did not act on tended to hold on longer to that regret over time.
• Individuals with low levels of education were likely to regret their lack of education. Americans with high levels of had the most career-related regrets.

“Past research on regrets focused on samples of college students, which made it difficult to glean insights into the wider population,” Roese said. “This research, however, offers a unique and more thorough look into the psychology of regret to further understand how regret connects to life circumstances and its impact on decision making.”

The study, “Regrets of the Typical American: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample,” will be published in a forthcoming issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Explore further: Immersed in violence: How 3-D gaming affects video game players

Related Stories

Embrace your regrets and move forward, psychologist says

Jan 24, 2005

Have regrets? Don’t push them away. Harness them and move on as a smarter person, says Neal Roese, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Roese tackles the sometimes touchy topic in ...

Regrets? Study examines how people can cope

Mar 01, 2011

Although Edith Piaf defiantly sang, "Non, je ne regrette rien," most people will have their share of regrets over their lifetime. Indeed, anyone who seeks to overcome disappointments should compare themselves to others who ...

Nearly half of all elderly Americans will experience poverty

Dec 09, 2010

Nearly half of all Americans between the ages of 60 and 90 will encounter at least one year of poverty or near poverty, says a recent study by Mark R. Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Work at the Brown ...

Recommended for you

Teenage self-harm linked to problems in later life

11 hours ago

Those who self-harm as teenagers are more at risk of developing mental health and substance misuse problems as adults, new research from the biggest study of its kind in the UK has revealed.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

IsMan
1 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2011
i think this study is descriminating becose it only relates on American people concerns but not the African-American people!!
dsl5000
not rated yet Mar 27, 2011
IsMan if you read the article they are broad topics generalizing and ranking regrets of "typical Americans"...If you are an African-***American*** you are an American too....(Face-Palm)
sammilaw
not rated yet Mar 27, 2011
What happened to? It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

I am a little saddened by that study, but I do not regret reading it. Also, I find it sad that there is such a lack of cultural awareness/practice of letting things go and accepting loss.

I read a nice book once that suggested a program for healthier living. It made many bold promises. One, of those many is: "... we will not regret the past nor wish to close the door on it ..."
Quizzical_mama
not rated yet Mar 30, 2011
The study's findings reminds me of what I've found in my research comparing attitudes to love and sex among Americans and Scandinavians. Basically, the inflated principle of "love for life" milked by Hollywood puts more pressure on relationships and this is making women in the US in particular feel more vulnerable and concerned about whether or not their partner really cares about her. I write more about this in an essay I'm working on based on a talk I gave on the topic, see my lovesexfamily.com site for more.